In deciding the spiritual path to follow in life, all of us should ensure several basic properties about such an important choice. First, it should be more than an emotional choice. Second, it should not be simply what our parents taught us. Third, it should be well thought out and defensible before those who disagree. Fourth, we must avoid making caricatures of other people or their choices. Fifth, we must not make God in our own image and simply create a designer religion, the great disease of modern times. Such religions are little better than an appliance. In the section of Questions I have wrestled with, I deal with truth issues. But here I present some of my personal experience with Christianity.
Both of my parents are Christian and I grew up in the church. But like most children, I did things because of my parents -- activities like church were habits and not choices. However a series of events unfolded that would permanently change my life.
When I was in junior high school, my dad resigned from his job to start a bible college in India. He previously worked with World Vision, a nonprofit relief & development agency, best known for its child sponsorship programs that are often on televsion. For the rest of my youth, my family spent our weekends on the road in different states or countries visiting churches where my dad would speak about his vision of starting a bible school in Northern India, in a region with 0.2% Christians. Every weekend being a "road trip" of sorts, I've visited hundreds of churches and met people from all over the country in various Christian circles.
In the course of traveling to these many churches, my dad and a pastor friend wanted to make a physical model of what the bible college would look like so that people could get a tangible vision of the college. They asked an Austrian architect, recently arrived in the U.S., to build this model. I can still remember the day I first saw it. The model was large, 4 feet by 4 feet, with a very unusual geography. When you face the model, the shape of the land comes down to you in tiers, with a moutain in the back right corner of the model. To make things even more interesting, the mountain was shaped to have perpendicular steps that led to a plateau on the top. A highly unusual land formation to say the least.
As land in India is very expensive, my dad estimated that it would cost about $50,000 to buy 5 acres of land. With this in mind, he would save all the offerings that churches would give on these trips with the hope of one day buying the land for the bible college in India. One day my mom suggested that we pray to find land for $25,000 so that at least if we raised $50,000, we would have something left over to start building with. This became something that our family and others prayed for.
At last, after years of labor, my dad had saved enough money to buy the land in India. He visited India in a state called Uttar Pradesh to try to find land. He visited many plots of land there and unfortunately, even 5 acres cost at least $70,000, far out of our range. Completely discouraged, he was ready to leave until one man came to him about a piece of property that was possibly still up for sale. They traveled by Jeep to the property and when they arrived, my dad was utterly astonished.
The land was exactly like the land that was designed by the Austrian architect! The land came down in tiers and in the back right corner of the property, there was the mountain that is shaped like perpendicular steps leading to a plateau on the top! He was of course very excited so they rushed to find the owner of the land. The land turned out to be slightly over 5 acres and the price $25,000!
My dad asked the owner why this land could be so cheap when neighboring land was so expensive. He was honest and said that he had been trying to grow mango trees on the land for many years to no avail. The mango trees were stunted at less than six feet tall, with normal mango trees exceeding twenty feet in height. For this reason, the land was worthless to him and so he wanted to be rid of it. After we bought the land, the mango trees began to grow again.
I myself have since visited this college three times and have seen the land with my own eyes (including this now famous mountain) and eaten mangoes from the once stunted and infertile trees. It was an amazing experience to see these events unfold that would be hard to call a coincidence. Many other spectacular events happened that further confirmed to me that there had to be God at work in amazing ways. The college has now been running for over ten years and has trained thousands of young people from all parts of India. Here is a link to the bible college's webpage.
During my final year of high school, I was reading the Bible and came across the passage:
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39
Once I read this, it entered my soul in a way that words cannot describe. Joy flooded my heart and I literally began to dance. My life would never be the same. Since I have become a practicing Christian, I can honestly say that my life has never been the same again. Make no mistake, it still has great challenges. Christianity does teach a different lifestyle that is certainly not the path of least resistance, nor the path that most choose to follow. But I have seen many glimpses of God's hand, stories like the one I just related, that illustrate the reality of the God of the bible. And this reality moved from external to internal: God enabled me to overcome sins and addictions and live a new life of holiness, joy, and peace.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life." - John 3:16